Company who owned care home in the Thames Valley fined £1.04m for corporate manslaughter

The view of the home, which no longer exists, from the road.

A former care home manager has avoided prison following the death of a dementiapatient after she was put into a scalding bath.

Frances Norris, 93, died on February 8 2015, three days after she was put into the bath by carer Noel Maida, 50, and a junior carer, at Birdsgrove Nursing Home in Bracknell, owned by Aster Healthcare.

After she had been put into the bath, Ms Norris said it was "cold", prompting Maida to tell the junior carer to add more hot water, the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard. Ms Norris was in the bath for "several" minutes before the junior carer noticed the temperature was too high and she was taken out, a three-day sentencing hearing was told.

Ms Norris was taken to hospital before being transferred to the specialist burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she later died. The court heard 12% of Ms Norris' body was covered in serious burns.

Aster Healthcare was ordered to pay a fine of £1.04 million within three years after admitting corporate manslaughter over Ms Norris's death.

An images of Frances Norris released by her family. Credit: Thames Valley Police

Elisabeth West was the care home manager at the time and was "well aware" of problems that had been raised for a number of years in regards to the hot water systems at the home, the court was told.

As she handed West a nine-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, Mrs Justice Thornton said the former care home manager was "unqualified" for her position and was "out of her depth."

She said of Ms West: "She was unsupported and bullied. She had no training and was unprepared for the challenge. She knew enough about the risks of hot water and the long-standing problems at the home. She was a nurse and was well aware of the risks of scalding.Maida was sentenced to 16 weeks, suspended for 18 months, after he pleaded guilty to a failure to discharge a duty on Wednesday. West had also pleaded guilty to the same charge. Aster Healthcare pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter.

The company admitted falsifying water temperature records, falsifying a record of the servicing of the thermostatic mixing valves, and falsifying a contract of the servicing to be provided to the Care Quality Commission and Health and Safety Executive.

Mrs Justice Thornton told the court that "no punishment can ever compensate the family for their loss in the circumstances in which Ms Norris met her death".

The garden space inside Birdsgrove Nursing Home. Credit: BPM Media

Following the sentencing, Ms Norris' family released a statement that said: "Mum will always be someone special to us, a woman who lived through the Second World War, who left school at 14 to support her own mother in caring for her eight brothers and three sisters.

"Mum was warm, generous and kind-hearted. She was always an independent person, happy with the simple things in life, never wanting much. She was stoical and just got on with things.

"She never complained, even when ill, which was not very often. Sadly, dementia slowly robbed her of her independence until in the later stages of her life she became fully reliant on people to care for her. That trust was shattered when she died at the hands of the care staff at Birdsgrove Nursing Home who were there to look after her and keep her safe.

"After 6.5 years we have got finally got some justice for Mum although it will never compensate for our loss.